19 julio, 2024

What is the liberal state? Origin and characteristics

He liberal state It is characterized by being legally and politically organized around elements such as the separation of powers, submission to the law, the existence of the rule of law, respect for individual liberties and private property, among other things.

This type of state organization appeared as a consequence of the crisis that affected the absolutist system of government. The appearance of new philosophical currents that proclaimed equality between individuals and the existence of inalienable rights and social changes such as the rise of the bourgeoisie ended up causing the outbreak of liberal revolutions.

Another important factor for the appearance of the liberal State was the Industrial Revolution, which changed the economic order in much of the planet. This change in the State model, which is still in force in a large part of the world, was one of the factors that gave rise to the beginning of the Contemporary Age.

In the economic sphere, the liberal State presents itself as a defender of the free market, while in the political sphere it evolved from a system in which only some social sectors could vote to universal suffrage. These States endowed themselves with constitutions that sought to legally reflect their basic principles.



Although the liberal State did not appear until the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the ideas that supported it had been defended by some philosophers. One of them, John Locke (1632-1704), is considered the father of liberalism and his words inspired part of the liberal revolutionaries.

founder of liberal thought

The English physician and philosopher John Locke is often considered the father of liberal thought. During his life, the thinker debated politics with the most important intellectuals of the time, especially Thomas Hobbes.

Liberalism originated in those discussions between Locke and Hobbes, who discussed the politics of their day and differed substantially in many of their theories. His arguments served as inspiration for the appearance of concepts such as the social contract, which defined the relationship between governments and people.

While Hobbes was a supporter of the monarchy, Locke advocated a parliamentary system. The first, moreover, preferred a centralized authority with great powers, to which the second responded with his support for the legislature, understanding that Parliament was the embodiment of the popular will.

Locke’s thought held that government required the consent of the governed. With this, he abandoned the absolutist idea of ​​a power emanating from God.

These ideas were also defended, with their own nuances, by enlightened thinkers such as Montesquieu or Rousseau. The first was the main defender of the need for a separation of powers to exist, one of the bases of the liberal State.

liberal revolutions

The term liberal revolution is used by historians to designate a series of rebellions that led to a change in the political model. Although the evolution was different in each country, these revolutions initiated the transition between the Modern Age and the Contemporary Age.

The liberal revolutions took place between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Economically, they occurred in the context of the Industrial Revolution, while socially they were characterized by the growing importance of the bourgeoisie.

The political result of these revolutions varied depending on the country, although they all sought to end the absolutist system. In some cases, the revolutionaries founded a republic, such as the English Commonwealth (1649), the United States (1776), or the French Republic (1793).

In other cases, the regime that emerged from the revolutions took the form of a monarchy, although no longer absolutist, but controlled by a parliament. Some examples were the English Glorious Revolution (1688), the constitutional monarchy that emerged from the French Revolution of 1789 or the Spanish courts of Cádiz in 1812.

The next revolutionary wave occurred in 1848 and was decisive for the subsequent rise of liberal forces in Europe.

Characteristics of the liberal state

The form of government that the liberal State endows itself with is not decisive in its definition. This system can be a republic, a constitutional monarchy or a parliamentary monarchy, without impairing the rest of its characteristics.

legal field

Liberal states are built from the principle of legality. In this way, it offers each citizen a rule of law that guarantees their individual rights.

These rights begin with freedom and include equality before the law, freedom of expression, and other rights. All together, translate into the existence of legal certainty.

Social ambit

Although it is not always fulfilled, the liberal State should theoretically offer equal opportunities to each of its citizens. Thanks to this, every individual should be able to reach a place in society that corresponds to his merits and abilities, without the existence of caste or lineage privileges.

political sphere

The liberal state endowed itself with a representative system based on democracy. At first, the suffrage was based on census and later it evolved towards universal suffrage.

On the other hand, the system of powers in the liberal State follows the scheme proposed by Montesquieu. Thus, the legislative, judicial and executive powers must be independent of each other.

economic field

The liberal State, as befitted its bourgeois origin, was related from its origin to economic liberalism. This implied respect for private property, the free market and that governments participate as little as possible in the economy. This should be governed by supply and demand.

liberal democratic state

The liberal democratic State is the political regime in which the system of government is based on democracy. Voting thus becomes the supreme form of participation in politics.

In these States, free and periodic elections are held so that the citizens choose their representatives in the different government bodies.

Along with suffrage, this type of state is based on law. The laws are promulgated by the representatives of the citizens, who are considered as a whole as the subject of sovereignty.

In the field of law, the establishment of the principle of equality before the law and legality stand out. The second concept establishes that all citizen obligations must be included in the relevant legislation, while the first means that all individuals must be treated in accordance with the law.

constitutional liberal state

From the outset, the liberal states felt the need to collect all their fundamental laws in a single text.

The written constitutions were a guarantee that all the elements of the liberal State would be respected, from the division of powers to equality among the country’s inhabitants.

As a constitutional regime, these liberal states established limits to public power and developed a perspective that guaranteed individual rights. With a written constitution, legal certainty was strengthened and the existence of the rule of law was guaranteed.

The United States and France promulgated constitutions with a markedly liberal character after their respective revolutions. Historically, he also highlighted the Cádiz Constitution of 1812, which tried to turn Spain into a liberal state.


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Martinez Garcia, Maria Candelaria. liberal state. Retrieved from sites.google.com
Definition. Definition of liberal state. Obtained from definition.mx
Shubert, Adrian. The Liberal State. Retrieved from encyclopedia.com
Political Science. Theory of Liberal State: Definition, Features and Development. Retrieved from politicalsciencenotes.com
Dager, Richard. Liberalism. Retrieved from britannica.com

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